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MIT Libraries joins Ivy League partnership for access to over 50 million volumes

MIT Libraries recently became the newest member of the Borrow Direct program, a partnership between MIT and the Ivy League, which allows for MIT students, staff, and faculty to access over 50 million volumes available in libraries at Yale, Brown, Penn, Princeton, Dartmouth, Cornell, Columbia, and Harvard (which joined shortly before MIT, in January). The service expands library access from the five million volumes currently available in MIT libraries.

Borrow Direct is currently a part of MIT’s WorldCat catalogue, which can be used to search for books at MIT and other libraries nationwide. Participating books, along with other materials such as sheet music (but excluding multimedia items), have “Borrow Direct” in their description, and can be reserved from any library in which they are available. The items take about three to five business days to arrive and users can request to pick up the book at any MIT library. Borrow Direct items are loaned for 30 days, can be renewed once, and are subject to recall at the lending library’s discretion, said the MIT Libraries website.

MIT Libraries is eager to get members of the MIT community to use this service, which was activated earlier this week. “The service has been up and running, but we’re just trying to get the word out,” said Heather Denny, communications officer for MIT Libraries.

As with every system, the Borrow Direct interface is not perfect. According to the WorldCat website, limitations include: title searches in WorldCat not returning results when there are books available, even when a second search in the Borrow Direct interface would be successful; some books may appear “available” but not be “requestable” if the specific library does not participate in Borrow Direct (though the book can be requested through the Interlibrary borrowing); and the system does not recognize when an item is part of a multivolume collection, so a note has to be added to the checkout request to specify which volumes are wanted.

The service has been getting positive feedback from MIT affiliates, said Melissa Feiden, annex services and user experience librarian, adding that some people were excited about it before it was even live. “People were aware that we joined the service before it was up and running, and people would come to the service desk asking about the program.”

Borrow Direct expands upon existing collaborations that MIT Libraries participates in, such as the Boston Library Consortium (BLC) that gives MIT on-site access to over a dozen libraries in the Boston area, including the Harvard library system. Additionally, the Interlibrary Borrowing program is similar to Borrow Direct, but shipping is not expedited and materials cannot be borrowed that are “unrelated to your department, lab, or center,” according to MIT Libraries.

—Bruno B. F. Faviero